There was something bad about the day from the moment of waking. One of those days that seems to jangle in the air like impatient keys, unsettling me, keeping me on my toes and on the look-out. Whenever I feel like a day is ready-marked for bad things I try to tell myself off for being witchy and put it down to my hormones. But every now and then these days fulfil their promise and become heart-clangers, the portentous feeling dancing around me silently since morning then pipes up and whispers in my ear “See? Told you.”
I had that feeling the day you died, Victoria Wood. Woke with a not-quite-rightness that wouldn’t shift. Then the afternoon news. Everyone talking about it. Instant wide-spread grieving and tributes. I was stunned. I put everything down, switched off all other thoughts, and just took it in. Like with so many people, it felt like a personal loss. A direct swipe at my heart by Life. So much of what I care about – that I have done since I was 10 & still do now, privately in writing or on stage – is because of you.
You are the unattainable heights, but the inspiration to try anyway.
I will always remember it was you that made realise that notebooks would be my best friend for life, that an open notebook was an open mind to open worlds. My first intimacy. My first had gilt pages. I had a pencil with a rubber that smelled of American grape. Gilt & grape always make me think of you.
You taught me it was possible to laugh out loud and feel a small heartbreak in the same moment. Your sharps were always on the right side of empathy, were never ridicule. In your strange creations, life’s quiet losers, eccentrics and frustrated lovelorn freaks, you made silliness, imperfection, and ‘doomed to fail’ beautiful.
When I learned you had gone I had a document open with final comments to my publisher of my play Pramkicker. We had literally just done an hour’s rehearsal to see if we could remember the words before we take it on tour. You were one of the reasons I was so happy to be published by Methuen. To have that logo. I lost count of the times I read Barmy & Up To You, Porky as a teenager. Brontë Burger made me howl and ache and I learned it off by heart just so if I never had the book with me I would always have the words. That logo became like a talisman, something linked to you and other writers I loved (mostly dead, and so not to be missed as real people) and now you’re gone. I will always be five million steps behind you, but that logo will give me the illusion of being close. It will always be the link to when I began to know that words are only the start of things, that words are a bridge to our better selves. To when I fell in love with sitting alone, quiet, and letting words come out of seemingly nowhere and form characters that could walk and talk and breathe and live and love and laugh and fear and hope and make you feel things you would not have felt without them. No one could do these things all at once better than you. We will all call you, mostly, a comedian, but that is because we can’t really find the right word for what you were and are. You are so much more and it will always be part of me. Thank you for the things I love.